A woman dressed up like a fairy tale creature

Costume Studio Demo Artist Colleen Audrey

Colleen Audrey will be in the Costume Studio demonstrating cosmic character design April 8-9, 2017.

Holly Nordeck: What will you be demonstrating at the DAM?

Colleen Audrey: For my work at the DAM I plan to create four complete looks that represent my interest in classic fairy tales and science fiction, depicting the good and evil binary of both these universes. Each look will incorporate traditional theatre techniques for costume, high fashion approaches to makeup and the creation of wearable sculpture to fully realize my interpretation. The goal is to completely transform the model into a representation of another world.

HN: Can you tell us a little bit about your work?

CA: My work stems from a desire for escape and an origin in two-dimensional visual art. There is a need to create the fantastic and magical that I see in visual art in an everyday way, something that feels more alive and real, and I can most readily achieve this with a human body. Transforming a person in not simply a fashionable way, but an imaginative way, is a sort of temporary way of creating a world I want to be a part of.

A woman dressed in a white and black dress and white and black makeup

HN: I’ve noticed you have real talent for makeup, how do you think makeup plays a role in costume/character design?

CA: Makeup is essential. As powerful as a new wardrobe can be, the makeup is your mask, and the mask has the potential to elevate you outside of yourself. The face is arguably the most distinctive part of yourself, and the part you’re most used to seeing every day of your life. That face carries expectations of yourself and others can create expectations of you. Makeup, done in an imaginative way (and well), is transformative. It allows access to other parts of yourself or other identities altogether that you had no idea you could possess. With just costume, you’re a mannequin. With makeup, you can be anything or anyone.

HN: In your opinion, what are key elements into transforming a character?

CA: Obviously, I hold makeup to be pretty important. However, I feel that an overlooked part of character transformation is that all of the individual elements need to lock together and complement each other. A makeup designer whose work is sensitive to the needs of the character or theme won’t hold together a look where the wardrobe has no connection to that character or theme, no matter the quality of construction. The look has to be entirely convincing and true to the actor as well as to the audience, or it falls apart and everyone involved will just abandon it as just ‘dress-up.’ That’s coming from a designer’s point of view. For an actor, it can be almost anything they form some sort of relationship to, be it a wig or shoes or how they interact with a prop.

HN: What inspires you?

CA: Books. Definitely books. In my childhood my inspiration came from writers like David Eddings, Robert Asprin, Oscar Wilde, and Ray Bradbury. That seemed to lay the foundations for my focus on escapism, fantasy, and beauty. To this day literature really allows me my own interpretation of things, letting me decide how things look and move. I will often be sketching designs as I’m reading, jotting down what I see in the story.

HN: Finally, what is your personal favorite costume style/aesthetic?

CA: Science fiction. It allows incredible freedoms and creates massive challenges to the designer to create a believable world. It becomes more about the discovery of the end result and less about duplicating what has been done before. You just follow the original idea and ask, ‘Who is this person? What’s this particular setting? How do they interact with that setting? What do they need to survive? What is the weather or atmosphere like? What’s their social group? What do they look like?’ It can get overwhelming, but also insanely exciting. With science fiction costume design it can tell the audience just as much about the ‘world’ as the design of the environment; it can convey an incredible amount of information in an instant. I really enjoy taking on this kind of challenge.

Photos courtesy Colleen Audrey.

Holly Nordeck is a program facilitator in the department of learning and engagement at the Denver Art Museum. She loves the museum’s modern and contemporary art collection.